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Staten Island, New York, United States

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Art on Staten Island: Lumen 2011

I had heard reports last year about Lumen, a multimedia arts installation festival,  from my friends. I live in the neighborhood where it was held and had stood outside the gates, pondering whether to go in or not. Nothing was visible from the street and I had just had news that my father was gravely ill, so was in no mood. I just went home.

So, I was determined to attend this year and see if it lived up to the hype. The publicity leading up to it was astonishing for a Staten Island art event. We are used to being overlooked by the mainstream media, despite a LOT of effort. The Daily News will cover us sometimes, but the NY Times sends us a Metropolitan section in our Sunday Times, which is all about New Jersey (?????) and NEVER includes Staten Island listings. However, this year Lumen was covered prominently not only in the NY Times (in a couple of places AND with a picture!), but also in Time Out New York. And those were only the items I saw.  The director of our arts council (COAHSI), Melanie Cohn, told me that it was due to the very hard work of two marketing interns from CSI. Kudos to them! 

Staten Island Ferry boats as seen from the neighboring pier.
Lumen took place from 6:00 pm to midnight. This being the time of the year with the longest days, that meant that this festival featuring projections and lights took place during some daylight hours. That gave us some time to check out the site itself, a nearly abandoned "public" space which includes a recently renovated pier with some public art, a couple of plaza areas with permanent tables and seats, several large fenced-off abandoned historical buildings that were to house the National Lighthouse Museum (now moribund) and one small but beautifully renovated building. This was the site for SICC's Art by the Ferry festival in 2010.

The Verrazano Bridge as seen from the pier.
The pier was the site for performance artists, although there was one lone dancer performing in the dark near the abandoned buildings. You never know, she could have been moved by the moment and the ambience and was actually a talented interloper. Anyway, I was more distracted by the view on the pier than the performance artists; one lounging in a tent, one getting her hair cut, another performing what looked like a Santeria ritual (I steered clear - the machete made me nervous).

Sculpture made from construction buckets

After the sun set, my sister (my companion for the evening) and I planted ourselves at one of the permanent tables and chairs. For the next hour or so, we just pivoted in our seats, taking in the action around us. We were perfectly situated to see several projections on both screens and buildings, a very effective but simple sculpture made from alternating red and white construction buckets, some costumed people and the crowd.

This woman had to have been influenced by Ana Mendieta
who did many "silhueta" installations. 
Ana was a grad student at the University of Iowa when I was an undergrad there. She was a big influence on my own work when I was exploring female empowerment images.

We were greatly entertained overhearing a 20 minute conversation between a young man with a cooler, trying to explain to his friends at the ferry how to reach the site. I was astonished that so many people actually managed to find their way to the site. Every obstacle possible is put in the way of the most direct route; blockaded areas, signs that say "danger", "no entry", narrow almost invisible passageways between fences, and car traffic from the ferry. Seriously. Only armed guards with guns could make it more intimidating (but they are usually in the ferry terminal itself). I digress . . . back to the festival.

On the walk back towards the ferry terminal there was an avenue of sorts, with installations at perfect intervals. I especially enjoyed the ones which used the buildings as part of the pieces.

Such a perfect evening and like all successful site-specific art pieces, it highlighted the site as much as the art. The only drawback was that it needed beer, as per last year. It was such a laid back hanging-out-on-a-Saturday-night kind of thing that beer would have made it perfect. This was a big topic of discussion among the friends we ran into throughout the night. The word was that the public organization that controls the site had given an ultimatum "Do you want beer or do you want a festival?" Too bad.

Many thanks to Ginger Lynne Shulick, curator, and to COAHSI for sponsoring this festival. LOTS of people, time, effort and dedication is necessary to pull an event of this scale off and make it a success. AND the luck of good weather!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Denise, Thank you for the performance mention. My name is Quinn Dukes and I am the artist performing with the silhouette and candles. This piece entitled, For Obede Loyla Souza, 2011, is to honor Mr. Souza and the 1,150+ activists who have been slain in their attempts to preserve the Amazon.